A custody agreement is more than determining physical and legal custody. It is even more than scheduling when each parent has time with their children. Georgia law requires all divorcing parents to create a parenting plan for their custody agreement.

The parenting plan is generally what becomes the parent’s custody order, so it is critical to craft a realistic but flexible plan that meets a family’s needs. So, what should an effective parenting plan include?

First, some essentials

There are a few elements that every parenting plan must have, such as:

  • The parents’ strategy for making decisions regarding their children
  • A detailed parenting schedule, including specific dates that children spend with each parent
  • How parents will resolve conflicts, whether on their own or with court assistance

Negotiating these factors ahead of time helps reduce parents’ uncertainty about post-divorce parenting life. These may be the basic aspects of a parenting plan, but it is essential for both parents to take these negotiations seriously. Relying on a parenting plan can help families avoid conflict in the future and maintain a routine.

But parents can make extra provisions in the plan as well

However, parents can include more details than that in their parenting plan. After all, the plan is supposed to support the family after the divorce. So, it is important that the plan meets the family’s needs.

Some provisions that parents might want to consider adding to their parenting plan include:

  • Each parent’s financial responsibilities: Even though most families will have a child support order, it could be helpful for parents to agree on a budget and financial obligations. Parental competition is common after a divorce. And one way that competition manifests is through finances. Establishing a budget and determining how parents will pay for activities can help avoid that competition or any disputes about finances.
  • Rules about communication: It can be beneficial for ex-spouses to establish boundaries of when and how they communicate with each other. However, communication rules can also include how parents speak about each other to their children. Including rules against bad-mouthing can help preserve the child’s relationship with each parent.
  • What house rules should stay the same: After a divorce, children often switch between two living spaces. It is beneficial for parents to establish similar rules that do not change between these spaces. This helps parents avoid disputes, as well as maintain a stable routine for children.

A parenting plan can be more than a simple agreement. Divorced parents can actually depend on the plan to help them parent after the divorce, possibly work as a team, as well as hold each other accountable.